Clinching berth early will pay off in the road to the 2024 Paris Olympics

After barely squeaking into the world championship final as the eighth and last qualifier, Canada's women's gymnastics team knew there was only one way to go from there — up.

"All we said was, 'We can't do worse than eight,'" said Denelle Pedrick. "We went in with that mentality, and just wanting to enjoy it."

Pedrick, three-time Olympian Ellie Black, Laurie Denommee, Sydney Turner and Emma Spence went on to win a historic bronze in the team event at the world artistic gymnastics championships on Tuesday in Liverpool, England, securing a berth at the 2024 Paris Olympics. All but Black were making their world debut.

The Canadians were unaware of their standing on Tuesday until Black put up a score of 13.833 on the beam — second only to China's Ou Yushan — in Canada's final event of the day.

"We were focused on our gymnastics and maybe not so much about the scores . . . (some) had an idea that we could be top five, and then it came down to close to reaching the podium," Black said. "But the athletes competing on the beam, I think we were just focused on our gymnastics and what we needed to do to have the best performance we could."

The U.S. won their sixth straight world title with 166.564 points. Britain claimed silver (163.363) to the delight of the hometown crowd. And the Canadians scored 160.563 for their first-ever medal in the team event.

"It was a very, very emotional moment," said Turner, the youngest on the team at 17. "Because this was historic for Canada, we knew that this was something we hadn't achieved before. We've all done this sport for so many years and have worked so hard in the gym. And just the feeling of relief that we achieved something that's never been done before, just completely overwhelmed everyone is the best way possible."

"There were a lot of tears," she added. "Maybe some ugly crying from me, everyone else was fine crying, but I decided to go the ugly crying route. Just complete happiness."

Had the Canadians not clinched an Olympic berth, they would have had to attempt to qualify through the world championships next year at this time.

While the five-member team for the Paris Games won't necessarily be the same five who climbed the podium on Tuesday, Black said getting the qualifying out of the way early will pay off down the road.

"It allows the team to work on increasing our difficulty in our routines and trying some things that maybe we didn't want to take the risk of trying next world championship," said Black, a 27-year-old from Halifax.

The team celebrated by having dessert for lunch on Wednesday.

"I felt like the competition was a really good experience for all of us," said Spence, a Cambridge, Ont., native. "We had a lot of fun out there, and we did a really good job staying focused on each other.

"We didn't really pay attention to the scores, which is what made the end really, I guess more surprising to us. Our reaction was so big and surprising, but we were also just super proud and excited for how we did."

Black will compete in individual finals later this week.

Canada qualified for the women's team event at the 2020 Olympics with a fifth-place finish at the worlds in 2019, but didn't make the final in Tokyo.

Two-time Olympian Shallon Olsen of North Vancouver, B.C., the 2018 world silver medallist on vault, had to withdraw from this week's world's after the sudden death of her mother.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 2, 2022.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press